In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, a wealth of distinct Fighting Styles awaits you when you build and evolve your character. And, if you are looking for a style based on defensive prowess rather than aggressive attacks, the Tunnel Fighter 5e presents an ideal option.
Tailored for characters confronted with confined corridors, doorways, and compact spaces, the Tunnel Fighter style suits the adventurers’ natural habitat well. And whilst it might be the vanguard fighting styles that get all the glory, such rearguard defenders as the Tunnel Fighter are often the ones that make sure you return home in one piece.
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What is the Tunnel Fighter 5e Fighting Style?
Tunnel Fighter allows you to adopt a defensive stance using a bonus action, enabling you to unleash limitless attacks of opportunity without expending your reaction.
The Fighting Style was introduced by Wizards of the Coast in a 2015 Unearthed Arcana article, and it didn’t take long for players to recognize the potential for its game-altering impact. Their text summed up the ability as follows.
“You excel at defending narrow passages, doorways, and other tight spaces. As a bonus action, you can enter a defensive stance that lasts until the start of your next turn. While in your defensive stance, you can make opportunity attacks without using your reaction, and you can use your reaction to make a melee attack against a creature that moves more than 5 feet while within your reach.”
Is the Tunnel Fighter 5e official?
No, the Tunnel Fighter does not hold the status of an endorsed Fighting Style according to the core rules. But then, the great joy of DnD is that you can change the rules, add or remove elements and customize the game to suit your campaign feel and style of play.
Unearthed Arcana presented these ideas to the D&D community for testing purposes, and it took only a short time before many voiced concerns about the imbalance of Tunnel Fighter in 5e due to its capacity for unrestricted opportunity attacks.
Consequently, Wizards of the Coast did not integrate it into the sanctioned sourcebooks. However, that does not mean that you are not free to incorporate the Tunnel Fighting style into your own campaign, especially as fragments of its mechanics can already be found within the Cavalier subclass:
Hold the Line—At the 10th level, you become a master of locking down your enemies. Creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they move 5 feet or more while within your reach, and if you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the target’s speed is reduced to 0 until the end of the current turn.
Vigilant Defender—Starting at the 18th level, you respond to danger with extraordinary vigilance. In combat, you get a special reaction that you can take once on every creature’s turn, except your turn. You can use this special reaction only to make an opportunity attack, and you can’t use it on the same turn that you take your normal reaction.
It speaks volumes about how powerful these abilities are. Rather than introducing it as a Fighting Style all of its own, the creators only kept two of the original skills, making them available at the higher levels and only for one subclass of Fighter.
Why is Tunnel Fighter considered overpowered?
The primary issue revolves around the unrestricted attacks of opportunity, but when this style is combined with certain other feats, it becomes excessively powerful. When combined with a polearm (such as a halberd, glaive, spear, pike, or quarterstaff) and the Polearm Master feat, you gain the ability to make limitless attacks of opportunity against foes entering your 10-foot radius. This potential is available even at 1st level if you opt for a variant human, as they can select a feat upon reaching 1st level.
Similarly, choosing the Sentinel feat compounds the effectiveness of your unlimited attacks of opportunity, halting the targeted creature’s movement speed entirely. This strategy allows you to station yourself on the front lines as adversaries charge toward your group. You can perform free opportunity attacks on enemies moving within the 24 squares adjacent to you, significantly amplifying your damage output.
Furthermore, with Sentinel, each enemy you strike with your free opportunity attacks is immobilized, granting your party the opportunity to systematically eliminate them with ranged assaults, one after another.
If you’re contemplating the use of Tunnel Fighter in 5e, it’s advisable to engage in a conversation with your Dungeon Master. In many campaigns, the combination of feats and abilities will make the style too powerful.
However, if the DM has already changed the rules elsewhere, they might be enough to balance this fighting style. They might allow its usage as-is or collaborate with you to tailor it in a manner that keeps the campaign balanced. As always, it is about doing what is suitable for your campaign.
Modify Tunnel Fighter in 5e to be balanced
As previously mentioned, the most prominent concern from the introduction of the Tunnel Fighter pertains to its unrestricted attacks of opportunity. To address this issue, consider the following adjustment.
Rather than allowing unlimited attacks of opportunity, limit it to one free attack of opportunity per round. To introduce a scaling aspect, you could incorporate a mechanism granting additional attacks of opportunity equivalent to half of your proficiency bonus.
For instance, at 1st level, you would possess one standard reaction and one special reaction for executing an attack of opportunity. As you progress to the 17th level, your capacity will expand to encompass three special reactions per turn for conducting opportunity attacks.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that Fighting Styles in 5e aren’t inherently designed to scale. Instead, they typically bestow a static bonus to the fighter, such as Archery providing a +2 bonus to attack rolls or Defense offering a +1 boost to Armor Class, but this at least provides an option for bringing Tunnel fighting into the game without upsetting the balance too much.
Final Thoughts on Tunnel Fighter 5e
The undeniable potency of this Fighting Style stems from its ability to execute unrestricted attacks of opportunity. It was initially conceived only for combat in the tight spaces and cramped conditions of the castle dungeons and underworlds that adventurers find themselves in. But this aspect significantly amplifies a fighter’s damage-dealing capabilities, surpassing other fighting styles such as Two-Weapon Fighting and Archery. When interwoven with the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats, it culminates in creating an overpowering character build.
As it stands, the Tunnel Fighting style is too powerful for most campaigns, but that is not to say that with some careful consultation with the DM and a few careful tweaks and changes, the Tunnel Fighter couldn’t prove to be an enjoyable and valuable addition to the fighting styles and melee rules.
Tunnel Fighter 5e FAQs
What is Tunnel Fighter in D&D 5e?
Tunnel Fighter is a Fighting Style introduced in Unearthed Arcana articles by Wizards of the Coast for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. It grants unique benefits related to attacks of opportunity and defensive stance.
What is the primary feature of a Tunnel Fighter?
The critical feature of Tunnel Fighter allows a character to use a bonus action to assume a defensive stance, enabling them to make unlimited attacks of opportunity without expending their reaction.
Why is Tunnel Fighter considered powerful?
The primary source of power comes from unrestricted attacks of opportunity. This provides the potential for consistent and substantial damage output, particularly when enemies frequently move within reach.
Is Tunnel Fighter officially recognized in D&D sourcebooks?
No, Tunnel Fighter is not officially recognized in the core D&D 5e sourcebooks. It was presented in Unearthed Arcana articles, which are playtest materials used to gauge community feedback. Wizards of the Coast should have incorporated Tunnel Fighter into the official rulebooks due to concerns about its potential for imbalance.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com